Negotiation: A conversation or a wrestling match?

Published by | Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Still image of two people have a negotiation meeting, taken from a course

If the idea of negotiation makes you cringe, you’re not alone. For many people, negotiation is a loaded proposition. Yet if you were to track your conversations for one day, you’d be surprised to learn how often you’re actually negotiating, that is, having discussions intended to reach an agreement.

In the workplace we often find ourselves angling to be included in special projects, asking for help in meeting a deadline, or trying to convince our manager to let us telecommute one day a week. In our families, we negotiate with our children over peanut butter or baloney sandwiches, with our spouses over Hawaii or San Francisco as possible vacation venues, or with our parents about who will host the winter holiday family gatherings.

Social scientists who study negotiation tell us about that half the population thinks the negotiation process is as enjoyable as a root canal, while the other half experiences it more like a sporting event. But no matter where we land, negotiation is simply a conversation with innumerable subjects and a single end: agreement.

What we don’t like about the idea of negotiation is the moment of impasse that happens when we disagree. We don’t like the smell of conflict, and having to steel ourselves to solve a problem or get what we want. Think used car salesman, a micromanaging boss, an office mate who eats lunch at your desk, or the perennial favorite, asking for a raise.

Getting comfortable in negotiation requires two things: learning the vocabulary of the strategies and tactics you’re already employing every day, and consciously practicing them to achieve your goals.

In my course Negotiation Fundamentals, I teach interest-based, mutual benefit negotiation. In response to member requests for a live-action role-playing scenario that illustrates negotiation techniques, I have also added a new video that demonstrates the conversational quality of negotiation, and highlights the collaborative strategies and tactics used along the way. This video is available to both members and nonmembers, so I encourage you to watch it and share your thoughts in the comment box below.


Interested in more?
• All business courses on
• All courses by Lisa Gates

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• Managing your Career
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